Tagged: Kevin Keller

Mike Gold: America Drinks and Goes Home

It’s been quite a while since I’ve plopped my butt down on an airline seat. There are several reasons for this, the primary one being I loathe being treated like shit.

As we have seen from all too many recent incidents, once onboard airplane employees have complete control over your fate. If you do not promptly obey their every command or, say, object to their anti-peanut policy, they can and will have you arrested. If somebody on the plane thinks you look weird, or you look like a Muslim or some other type of person they find noxious, they will complain to a flight attendant. If you have yet to take-off, the airplane Nazis will call the goon squad and have you taken off the plane, sometimes by force. If you’re in the air, you likely will be arrested when the plane lands. Paranoid Fox News watchers, and that is redundant, now own your ass.

Ever since my upper left arm and shoulder was replaced with metallic prosthetics, I’ve figured to be safe I need to get to the airport at least four hours before my flight because employees of the government’s Transportation Security Agency, better known as the TSA, are likely to lose their minds when I approach the metal detector machine. Adding four hours to the two hours it takes me to get to the airport and park my car and get to the security line makes my driving anywhere east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon line faster and a lot cheaper and much more pleasant.

But now, I no longer have to worry about that. According to our friends at the CBLDF – the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – the TSA may require passengers to require books and other written materials to be scanned separately.

The TSA already wants to copy or cop our laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets, and that is beyond the pale. It’s also un-American, but since when has our government given a shit about that? But this latest decision is one step beyond. I will no longer voluntarily submit myself to their terror.

According to the CBLDF, “In 2010, for instance, the ACLU represented Nick George, a college student who was handcuffed, detained, and interrogated at Philadelphia International Airport while carrying a set of Arabic-English flashcards and the book Rogue Nation by Clyde Prestowitz – a former Reagan Administration official who was critical of foreign policy under George W. Bush.”

The CBLDF continues: “ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley outlined just a few reasons that travelers might not want strangers perusing their choice of reading: A person who is reading a book entitled Overcoming Sexual Abuse or Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction is not likely to want to plop that volume down on the conveyor belt for all to see. Even someone reading a bestseller like 50 Shades of Grey or a mild self-help book with a title such as What Should I Do With My Life? might be shy about exposing his or her reading habits.”

If you are boarding with any of several thousand graphic novels – Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta, published by DC Comics, or Dan Parent’s Kevin Keller, published by Archie Comics, or J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr’s Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations, published by Marvel Comics, or damn near any manga, you may be arrested and imprisoned. That is not an exaggeration.

In recent weeks, our free press has been labeled malicious liars by Donald Trump, our nation’s Man/Baby-In-Chief, and his spokeslackeys. All too many Congresspeople from his party have either chimed in their support or declined to stand up to this sophistry. Our Supreme Court, freshly imbued with a Trump appointee so far to the right that he should have his own talk show, just took a sledgehammer to the truly American concept of separation of church and state. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, proving once again – to quote Arlo Guthrie – that not all highs are good highs.

None of this bodes well for our future. The United States of America is rapidly becoming a dictatorship. Fifty years ago, Frank Zappa wrote a song called “Concentration Moon.” It contained the obviously seditious line “American way, try and explain. Scab of a nation, driven insane.” In the subsequent half-century, when it comes to America’s vaunted freedoms we have managed to go backwards.

Oh, yes. And one thing more.

Happy Fourth of July.

 

Mike Gold: Archie Gets Laid!

FIRST SPOILER ALERT: This week’s column is going to reveal all sorts of dark, nasty, sinister and provocative stuff about the new Riverdale series on The CW. If you haven’t seen the show and you intend to do so and you’re not going to be illegally downloading it, you might want to avoid the considerable amount of wit and wisdom that follows.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT: The aforementioned wit and wisdom will implant an image in your brain that you may never be able to get rid of. You have been warned!

Archie Andrews has sex with Miss Grundy in the back seat of a Volkswagen.

I guess I should applaud any 75-year old dude who gets to have sex with his high school teacher. And maybe I do, except that Geraldine Grundy did commit statutory rape. Then again, Archie’s probably tired of being harassed by Waldo Weatherbee and if he knew Waldo has the hots for Geraldine, he might have been indulging in an act of revenge.

Also then again… in the Riverdale television series Archie has been established as a sophomore. That puts him at the age of 15 or 16, and if Archie really is your “typical teen-ager” if given the opportunity he’d have sex with a plot of warm mud. And a tip of Waldo’s toupee to Lenny Bruce for providing me with that lovely illusion.

I’ll assume they’re setting up a storyline wherein Miss Grundy gets busted for statutory rape and Archie is left trying to explain the situation to his sundry objets d’ amour. And he’s got a lot of them: Veronica Lodge, Cheryl Blossom, Betty Cooper (in fact, she’s the one in love with Archie, a love that has been unrequited since before the attack on Pearl Harbor), and – I’m guessing here –Josie McCoy of Pussycats fame.

And, since I have your attention, shouldn’t the Pussycats trade-in their little kitty-ears for pink knit caps? C’mon, get on the bandwagon, ladies!

The Riverdale teevee series has been well received by critics and either loved or hated by Archie comics fans. It’s not your father’s Archie. It’s not your grandfather’s Archie. But it absolutely is Archie if said universe were to have been created today – and if it were not done as a comedy.

As every critic has pointed out, Riverdale is very much in the vein of The CW’s stereotypical programming. It’s a romantic thriller with all sorts of dark nooks and crannies. Archie Comics have done these types of stories before, particularly in the recent Life With Archie and Afterlife With Archie series. In fact, the latter was (or is, depending on if they’ll ever continue the series) written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creative director for Archie Comics and the writer/executive producer of Riverdale. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the sundry Archie characters have been so well established that they make the transition from comedy to melodrama with ease.

I enjoyed the Riverdale pilot, which is noteworthy in that I am far, far removed from The CW’s target audience. Of course there is a lot of set-up in that first episode, and Jughead was barely in it outside of his role as narrator. Much of the comic relief falls to Kevin Keller, which works nicely. As for Hiram Lodge being the show’s Gordon Gekko, leaving his wife Hermione to try to renew her relationship with a now-divorced Fred Andrews and thereby complicating the Veronica/Archie side of the romantic polygon, then Riverdale might not be your cup of tea.

Actually, reread that last sentence and remember my opening bit about the Volkswagen. If you can’t handle those truths, then Riverdale certainly is not for you. But I’ll be watching it, at least until I walk away muttering about what’s wrong with these kids today.

Joe Corallo: Greater Queerness

kevin-keller-it-gets-better2Over the last week or so, we’ve seen two positive affirmations of the greater queer community at two of the biggest comic franchises. Over at Archie Comics, Jughead is officially asexual. Down at Marvel, the pansexual Deadpool crushed box office records for an R rated movie at the box office. Will these queer portrayals in comic culture start a push for better and more complex looks into the sexualities of the characters we read and watch, or are we in for more of the same?

Let’s start with Archie. For years, Archie Comics has been slowly reinventing itself. With the help of creators like Dan Parent, the openly gay Kevin Keller has been a breakout student down in Riverdale. Following some years later, Chip Zdarsky has Jughead officially come out as asexual. I think it was an interesting choice having Kevin Keller be the one to use the word asexual in conversation with Jughead, rather than Jughead use the word himself, as a way of seeming to carry the tradition on from one character on the queer spectrum to another. And the way the conversation went did so without taking away from Jughead’s agency, unlike Marvel’s poor handling of Iceman being outed in All-New X-Men nearly a year ago.

I applaud Archie Comics and Chip Zdarksy for expanding its representation to this sexual orientation minority. Asexuality is something that both inside and outside the queer community has been argued over and is often misunderstood. Asexuality manifests in different ways for different people. For Jughead, he also identifies himself as aromantic, which is perfectly fine. Not all asexuals are aromantic. Asexuals don’t necessarily have an entirely non-existent sex drive. They may just have a low sex drive. They may end up in a monogamous relationship with an opposite sex or same sex partner where they may engage in sexual activity. That doesn’t mean they aren’t asexual. Just like when a bisexual person is in a monogamous relationship, that doesn’t suddenly mean they aren’t attracted to the opposite gender of their partner. And no, it is never, ever, ever your job to try to help them see that sex is great and they’re missing out. Ever. Never ever. Please always remember that.

kevin-keller-first-kissThis isn’t something I immediately knew and understood at a young age. It took time. I remember as a teenager on the internet in the late 90s to early 2000s checking out sites like the now defunct xy.com and chatting with a few men who identified as asexual. At the time, I thought if they weren’t sexually attracted to the same sex they wouldn’t be here, and that they were repressed and looking for someone to help them come to terms with their sexuality. That was wrong of me and I understand that now.

Some of the arguments and tension towards the asexual segment of the queer community comes not only from some of the misunderstandings, but it also comes from asexual treatment in our society and laws versus treatment of people in the LGBT community. The asexual community hasn’t necessarily in the minds of other people been affected the same way by our laws. That’s not entirely true in that an asexual who is not also aromantic could have potentially been denied the ability to marry who they wanted until recently, as well as being affected by other homophobic or transphobic laws on the books.

Asexuals also have to deal with societal pressures like most people in the queer community do. I certainly can relate to being in uncomfortable conversations with people that were aggressively heterosexual in nature when I was younger, either not out or not as confident at the time and not being sure how to handle the situation. Not to mention the conversations about how you need to have hetero sex before you can rule it out. Again, please don’t tell people they need to have sex to understand themselves and especially never imply to people that you are the one they should be having sex with in that scenario.

Moving on to Deadpool, I’ve mentioned in at least a few of my previous columns that although Deadpool is being billed as the first pansexual superhero in a major motion picture, that we have to wait and see how that ends up being handled. My fear was that most of Deadpool’s behavior that falls outside of the heteronormative would end up being joke fodder. I was at least partially right.

This isn’t really a spoiler for anything major in the movie, but if you’re avoiding anything regarding details in the Deadpool movie (or want to avoid the kind of vulgar subject matter that conspires in the movie) you may wanna skip the next paragraph.

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s the deal. We do see Deadpool engage in some behavior that’s considered outside the norm. He’s confident in himself, his sexuality, and it doesn’t make him any less of a powerful and threatening character. However, most of the instances when he’s doing something outside the heteronormative, it’s a joke. When he’s with his girlfriend they have a montage of different holidays they have sex on. For International Women’s Day, she ends up pegging him. It’s played for laughs. Other instances including kissing a pizza delivery boy on the cheek after threatening him, and complimenting his male taxi driver. This doesn’t necessarily help all that much in terms in pansexual representation.

If sexuality outside the norm is played purely for laughs, it’s just a joke and it’s not about being inclusive. That’s not also to say that we shouldn’t have any fun with sex and sexuality either. And I will give Deadpool credit in that it’s good to see more heroes who have less traditional sexualities and can help combat the dated and offensive notion that queer people are somehow weaker and can’t be taken seriously. More and more characters in nerd culture like Doctor Who’s Captain Jack Harkness have been coming out and combating this for years now, but stereotypes are damaging and linger.

Between Jughead and Deadpool in this last week, I feel that it was one of the best weeks for greater queer representation in comics and comic culture. Sexuality is not black and white, and I think these characters and the stories being told with them in comic culture are helping to show that sexuality is complicated, fluid, and can’t truly be encompassed by a single word.

Oh, and it can be profitable at the box office too.

John Ostrander: Paving The Way

Kevin KellerFriday was a landmark day for this country. The Supreme Court effectively said that same sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. In doing that, they reflected the views of American citizens: 63% of us have said they think same sex marriage should be legal. It’s been a majority opinion since 2010 when a CNN poll first reported it.

This would have been unthinkable just a few years before that. Part of the change is due to our own pop culture. Depictions of LGBT individuals have proliferated over the years. Think of the uproar when Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian back in 1997 with her character on her sit-com, Ellen, also coming out a short time later. The uproar that followed!

Contrast that with her talk show that started seven years later. She has also hosted the Academy Awards, the Grammys, and the Primetime Emmys. She’s been a hugely successful stand up comedienne. She was the voice of Dory in Finding Nemo. She’s beloved today.

And she changed peoples’ perceptions of LGBT. She was in peoples’ homes, in their living rooms, on the TV. TV is a member of the family in most households and, by extension, so are the people who are on it. She wasn’t alien; she was human and she made us recognize that.

In 1998, Will and Grace premiered on NBC starring Eric McCormack and Debra Messing as a gay man and his straight female friend. (McCormack, it should be noted, is not gay; that’s why they call it acting, folks.) It was hugely successful during its eight seasons. And it dealt with many LGBT issues, dramatizing them for the American audience. It made people aware of LGBT people and the fact that they were people. The sexual orientation might be different but so many other concerns and likes mirrored everyone else.

In 2003, Queer Eye (for the Straight Guy) debuted in which five gay men would do a make-over of a straight man, including where he lived, what he wore, what he ate, how he looked, and even how he acted. Some felt the Fab Five (as Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez were collectively known) were stereotypes and it’s true that the show never got into the Fab Five other than their on-air personalities. Nor did we see them with significant others.

I think that misses a big point. Queer Eye, like the other two shows, was welcomed into the general public’s living room. So many people didn’t know anyone who was gay (or didn’t know that they knew someone who was gay) suddenly knew a few. And liked them. And weren’t threatened by them.

They – as well as Ellen and Will and Grace – also gave to other LGBT, including young ones, people to admire and look up to. Someone to identify with. They were no longer alone.

There have been gay and lesbian characters in comics, though not as prevalent as other media. I worked in some gay issues and characters in both The Spectre and Suicide Squad. In the latter, a mechanic in the support team for the Squad (Mitch Sekofsky) was a gay father.

There have been LGBT characters at different companies. Marvel has had Northstar, Wildstorm/DC has Midnight and Apollo, Batwoman, Rene Montoya, and many others. Archie Comics (Archie Comics?!) famously introduced an openly gay character in Kevin Keller in his own mini-series and digests and the issue where he got married to his boyfriend sold hugely. The Buffy comic series, following up on the very popular TV series has several lesbian characters. Buffy herself experimented in a one-night stand with another woman.

There have also been any number of open LGBT creators, artists, and writers in comics. Some, like Howard Cruise, have openly explored gay themes in their work. Others simply work in comics and write all kinds of characters with all kinds of themes. Their life experience, who they are, informs their work, as my life experience informs mine. That’s called being human.

Pop culture has had a significant role in changing public perceptions of LGBT. Not perfectly. Pop culture more often reflects public perception rather than shapes it. However, it can open eyes, not by confronting but rather by showing us that LGBT people are, well, people like you and me.